The coronavirus pandemic has kicked off the largest work from home experiment of our time. Some businesses are in denial about how long we could be working remotely, and others are rushing to buy spyware to log their employees’ keystrokes to take micromanagement to a new low.

Meanwhile, smart businesses are learning to quickly adapt to these new conditions, recognising that flexible work isn’t new, and is actually a core function that resilient businesses need to adopt.

No matter the attitude towards remote work, however, organisations across the country are suddenly finding that existing business problems are being amplified and new challenges are emerging thanks to this new digital-first approach.

And, like any time things go off the rails, it’s easy to blame these problems on the obvious (but wrong) thing. As a team who lives, breathes and thrives remotely, we wanted to break down six of the most common myths of working from home - so you can uncover what’s really holding your team back.

Myth #1: People who are in the office are doing work

Someone sitting at their desk in their office most certainly does not guarantee they are doing work. People are just as likely to get distracted by social media, their phone or their favourite websites while in the office as they would when they’re at home.

In fact, 75% of people who work remotely do so because there are fewer distractions.

Facetime doesn’t equate to productivity. When left to their own accord, and with the right structures in place, you may find your team actually becomes more productive when given the freedom and responsibility to work the way they choose, on their time and by their rules.

Myth #2: People who are in the office are doing valuable work

Unfortunately, many businesses have created cultures where people are simply busy doing ‘busy work’ by creating over complicated processes and implementing the wrong tools. In these environments of excess waste, work tends to be measured by outputs, and is valued more than work measured by outcomes.

A recent global study on productivity revealed that, on average, office workers spent approximately 552 hours a year (69 work days) completing administrative or repetitive tasks.

Imagine what an extra 69 days of valuable work could do for your organisation!

If you want to stay lean and competitive, especially during times of economic decline, teams need to cut the waste and focus on what will deliver the most value with the least amount of effort.

Myth #3: The person who leaves the latest and works on the weekend does the most work

Again, this comes back to the idea that simply ‘time in’ equals ‘value out’. Have you ever looked at the person who always seems to stay late in the office and thought, “they never stop working, they must be doing tons more than the rest of their team?”

We’ve all done it - including myself. What I’ve experienced over the years, though, is that people trying to portray that kind of image in actual fact spend a lot of time playing games or doing online shopping.

Don’t let face time fool you. Instead, give people key responsibilities focused on the outcomes you want your team to drive - and hold them accountable to those outcomes, not to the number of hours they spend sitting behind a computer.

Myth #4: People don't get work done when they’re at home

Contrary to popular belief, this is false. Research from the University of Cardiff found that while 69% of in-office workers said they put in more effort than required of their jobs, 73% of remote workers said they did the same.
Similarly, two-thirds of managers report that employees who work from home increase their overall productivity. Meanwhile, 86% of employees say they’re most productive when they work alone—devoid of distractions like inefficient meetings, office gossip, or loud office spaces.

Myth #5: Collaboration can only happen in person

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a huge fan of face to face interaction and the benefits it brings.

However it’s not the only way to do great work - and if we’re forced to work remotely, there’s a number of things you can do to foster better team collaboration:

  1. Use the right tools. Thanks to the internet and savvy tech companies, there’s an array of outstanding tools teams can now use to collaborate. Products such as Slack, Trello and Miro are great for communication, organisation and visualisation of work. In fact, progressive companies are already using these as fundamental tools in their day-to-day work, making the switch from in-person to digital less of a hurdle.
  2. People need to be clear on what they’re supposed to be doing, what other people in their team are doing, and how their work ladders up to the team’s goals. People also need clear lines of communication and easy access to their leaders -  common blockers to getting stuff done.
  3. Carve out dedicated time for collaboration and focus. Ensure your team has set aside time to connect with each other, and equally, time for heads down work. Keep meetings short and to the point. There’s nothing worse than back to back video calls with no time to actually do real work in between.

Myth #6: Video conferencing doesn't work

It’s true. Video conferencing can be extremely painful.

However, video conferencing works well if you have the right tools and some good structure in place. I’d recommend tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts. As long as you half a decent internet connection, these should give you uninterrupted video calls at a quality high enough to have good conversations.

Real-time editing tools and screen sharing is also a great way to combat the frustration of not being able to work side by side with someone too.

To wrap up

Remote work isn’t just a thing organisations should do by necessity. There’s a wealth of research out there that shows flexible work reduces stress, increases productivity and keeps your employees hanging around with you for longer. And if that wasn’t enough, it even can save you money (think of office rental costs) and the environment (think of those emissions from commuting) in the process.

To do it well though, there’s a few mindsets we need to get straight first:

  • Visible work doesn’t always equal valuable work
  • Trust, clear objectives and metrics that measure outcomes are key
  • Collaboration is harder without face time, but with extra care and effort is possible